Young People and the Law


Children and young people experience substantial barriers to obtaining legal assistance. Many young do not have the knowledge, resources, confidence or skills to access legal assistance in the same way adults do. Many young people do not categorise their problems as legal issues, as many see "the law" as being solely about the police and crime. In addition there are only a handful of specialist children's lawyers in Australia and children's legal representation, particularly for non-criminal matters, remains a largely neglected area of legal work.

Children and young people are using the Internet in greater numbers and with more confidence than the rest of us. In many ways the Internet is an area of public space where children and young people can participate on an equal footing with adults. The Internet is therefore an excellent forum for providing legal information to children and young people. They can use it anonymously, in a relatively cost effective and confidential manner. Many schools, public libraries and youth centres have Internet access.

Check out Lawstuff for more info.

The above information has been supplied by Rebecca Neil, Associate solicitor with the National Children's and Youth Law Centre, Sydney-July 1999.

The Law and Juvenile Offenders

A juvenile over the age of 14 (15 in Queensland) is considered criminally liable and will be held fully responsible for his or her actions if a law is broken. If your child is arrested, insist on being present during questioning.

Most juvenile offenders will be let off with a warning or a formal caution for a first, fairly trivial offence. But if the police proceed with a charge, the juvenile generally has the following rights:
  • To remain silent, except in the case of motor traffic offences. However, a juvenile should always give his or her name and address.
  • To be taken before a court as soon as possible.
  • To apply for bail.
  • To be segregated from adult offenders while being held in custody.
  • To be represented by a lawyer.
  • To have access to the duty solicitor at the court if he or she cannot afford a lawyer.
  • To have the lawyer cross-examine witnesses.
This information has been obtained from the Reader's Digest 'Legal Questions and Answers', 1996.